My Points Based On My Participation In My Former High School Alumni Facebook Group

In the era before advancement in technology especially in telecommunications, if an individual belonged to a community, a factor like the physical location was a key determinant. Interaction within a community meant that people could meet face to face (Preece and Maloney-Krichmar 2005). The era of telecommunications technology has overtime changed how such interactions take place and the previous view of the term community. Technology has seen people create communities and engage each other without necessarily meeting in person. Such virtual communities are a common practice in today’s world of technology, and they range across diverse age groups. The paper seeks to argue, through participant observation that perception on the benefits of virtual communities may differ greatly across generations. Through my participation in high school alumni online Facebook page, I argue that people may perceive virtual communities as either greatly beneficial or not so beneficial, depending on whether or not they have had telecommunication technology all through their lives.

Before the introduction of cell phones and the emergence of virtual communities, high school alumni associations still existed as successfully as the members could have them those days. Such associations were characterized by physical meetings and reunions to push their agenda forward. With telecommunication technology, the way that people meet, interact and push agendas forth in such associations has tremendously changed. According to Humphreys (2005), it is essential to properly study and understand the effects as well as the cultural and social contexts that technology reflects. The author asserts that new technologies give people room to work out issues and socialize in familiar ways, resulting in new social landscapes. Members of such groups as high school alumni have since embraced such technology through the formation of online groups to run their day to day activities.

In the paper, I argue my points based on my participation in my former high school alumni Facebook group. The members in the online group represent almost all the years of graduation from the high school; since the alumni association was established up to the most recent class. Since I have been a part of the association when cell phones were already in use, the presence of older members and my interaction with them proved essential to the paper. I made all the inquiries and interactions online, where I first identified members who may have graduated in the 1980s and early 1990s when the association started. Particularly, I chose to put up a post on the page stating that I was in the middle of conducting research that needed information from the members who were actively part of the alumni association before the formation of the online group.

Considering my target group, I did not get an immediate response. Taking, for instance, Boyd (2014) who states that it is complicated to live in a networked world, most people who have had to deal with technology in their older years have not embraced it as easily as the generation born during the existence of cell phones and internet. Boyd refers to the fear and anxiety that the society has embraced technology with especially regarding teenagers and social media use. While as the author states that her research indicated that the adults present in her former high school were also engaged on their phones, she is not sure whether they were reading emails or merely using the phone to curb the boredom. She further reminisces on her high school days where just a few of her friends were interested in computers.

Taking Boyd’s point of view that teenagers are the most active on social media, it follows then that recent graduates of a high school are likely to be the active ones on an online group. The author states that teenagers use cell phones to catch up with their friends especially when they cannot physically engage with them. Although many older people do not engage so much on social media, they have had to recently embrace social media activity as a necessity especially in cases where important communication is done virtually, for instance in company groups. Following my post on our Facebook page requesting to interact with older alumni, I got two responses by the end of that day. The first respondent was an administrator of the group, meaning she had an active role to play and hence had to check the posts on the group constantly.

Subsequently, a few more responses came through by day two of my post and by the third day, I had several members asking how they could be of assistance. I then posted that I intended to find out how the alumni association group ran its activities in the previous years before they established the online group. Putting in mind that the younger people are the most active in the group, they were the first to respond to the post, although, not with the specific answers to the post. They were mainly reacting to the post and part of them questioning how people survived without the internet, let alone cell phones. They were hence eager to get the responses from the people who could provide the information and these reactions, therefore, triggered a conversation that went on for some days.

Boyd (2014) uses the teenagers she interacted with to explain the use of social media and cell phones amongst the youth. The author states that most people during her high school days used chat rooms and other online services as a way to avoid the actual local community. On the contrary, teenagers now use social media to connect to different people within their community. Therefore, the active participation of the young people in the conversation arising from my post is normal and expected as Boyd asserts. Through this platform, for instance, following a conversation that my post triggered, the older people were able to give the younger generation a deep insight into the pre-internet era. There was even a post from a young man asking how they were even able to meet or in his words, “get anything done!” Such a comment clearly shows how much telecommunication technology had become a part of the world to the extent that imagining a life when it did not exist is almost impossible.

Among the responses that I got from the older generation was how they held yearly meetings and reunions to catch up and discuss important issues about the group. Additionally, several members started reminiscing and stating how much they missed those past days within the same conversation. Analyzing their responses, some of these members sounded like they wished such technology advancement to the point of online communities did not exist. I deduced that the reason they felt this way could be because the alumni group had not held a face to face reunion in at least three years. The younger generation may have hardly noticed this fact because their constant online connection with former schoolmates made them feel as though they still met (Boyd 2014). On the other hand, the older generation expressed the need for face to face interaction and meetings as this is the main way they know to stay connected.

According to Humphreys (2005), there is a need to examine social interactions before telecommunication technology advanced to understand its impact on the present ones. I, therefore, requested some of the older members to give us more insight into their physical meetings in the years before cell phones were common. One member explained that important issues including the date of the subsequent meeting were often discussed on such a day since it would be very difficult to communicate any such information to all members later. The reunions hence served the purpose of pushing forth their agendas as well as catching up on peoples’ lives. Commitment to such meetings was key to ensuring their success. They, however, admitted that over the years, many people started failing to show up due to various factors such as distance, work commitments, family commitments, among others. Most of the members, therefore, acknowledged that the formation of the online Facebook page enabled them to catch up once more with those they had not seen or heard from in years.

I compared the detailed aspects of their physical meetings to those of the last physical meeting we had three years back. Almost every member present, including me, had a cell phone which most people I remember carried on their hands in case they needed it. In the process of the meeting and interactions, people would constantly receive phone calls, check messages or even log in to their social media accounts. People focused on taking a lot of photos, which were later posted on the Facebook page and followed by hundreds of comments and reactions as asserted by Boyd (2014). In her research, Humphreys (2005) explores various aspects of cell phone usage in public and social interactions. She explains different ways that people are affected by or how they react to someone they are interacting with using a phone during their engagement, leaving them in an awkward situation.

Although Humphreys’ research mainly focuses on people making phone calls in the middle of a face to face interaction with one person, her findings may also apply to other cell phone usage like social media and texting. People may also adopt her paper findings while focusing on general cell phone etiquette in social and public places. In the case of our high school alumni face to face meeting, there may have been people who were constantly on their phones as is the norm in many social meetings in the current cell phone and internet era. It is not uncommon to find many people engaged in their phones when someone is addressing them especially in a public place such as a group meeting. Individuals tend to find various ways of distractions or dealing with what they may perceive as a boring speaker, and that is when the phone comes in handy as Boyd (2014) suggests. Many people have especially turned to social media for such purposes.

From the online conversation that followed on our high school alumni group page, there were clear indications that people who had been a part of the group before the internet and cell phones could state the pros as well as cons of the existence of the Facebook page. On the contrary, those who only know the technology era could hardly point out the disadvantages of cell phones and the internet. To the latter, technology is a crucial part of life. The younger generation could agree with Humphreys (2005) view that it is unnecessary for people to live in fear of technology ruling the world. Moreover, Boyd (2014) also points out that some people may expect technology to be the solution to all the problems in the world, ending up disillusioned when such is not the case. Boyd’s view that merits and demerits of technology cut across all ages and depends on how people apply it further asserts that our Facebook group members were bound to have different opinions on the topic depending on their age.

In general, my interaction with the group members prior, during and even after observations for the paper gave me an insight into the differences in opinion amongst various age groups concerning the benefits of telecommunication technology. The older members who were in the group before the cell phone and internet era expressed their preference for the days when they annually met face to face. It is worth noting that they also stated that when such meetings happened, they were very productive because they avoided the distractions that the introduction of cell phones created in such a social gathering. In such physical meetings, people had actual interactions as compared to the internet era when someone can easily shift their attention from the people around them to their phones.

Another key issue that arose was the fact that the older members view the internet as an addiction to the youth especially teenagers and hence would not so much advocate for this technology. They however also pointed out how difficult communication was before cell phones. Many especially the administrators of the online group and officials of the association stated that they have managed to pass on important information easily since the existence of the Facebook page. Also, people have managed to create better and easier connections that cut across generations within the group, and many people have benefited from such kind of networking.

Regarding the youth and younger generation within the group, most of them could only point out the benefits of cell phones and online communities. Specifically, to most of them, technology is a necessity, and they hence found it odd to even talk about its benefits rather than the fact that technology is a crucial part of life. Many of the younger members in the group, therefore, cited the need to have cell phones and the internet for what they termed as key aspects of daily life such as communication and social interactions.

However, a few of them pointed out that there are dangers associated with technology such as cyberbullying and addiction to social networks which may negatively affect other areas of an individual’s life. In conclusion, while virtual communities are important, people should not focus so much on them that they ignore the values of face to face interactions. Individuals may choose to maximize the benefits of both forms of communication and social interactions.

References

Boyd, Danah. 2014. It’s complicated: The social lives of networked teens. Yale University Press.
Humphreys, Lee. 2005. ‘Cellphones in public: social interactions in a wireless era.’ New media & society 7, 6: 810-833.
Preece, Jenny and Diane Maloney-Krichmar. 2005. ‘Online communities: Design, theory, and practice.’ Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 10, 4: JCMC10410.

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My Points Based On My Participation In My Former High School Alumni Facebook Group. (2023, Jan 14). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/my-points-based-on-my-participation-in-my-former-high-school-alumni-facebook-group/